122: Beholden

by =/\= Zanh Liis
80130. 16
Following Between the Lines

--=Captain's Ready Room=--

As Liis watched Thomas Cassius Blane disappear from view and the doors close behind him, she barked an irate command to the computer.

"Secure the doors."

She spun in repetitious, vicious half-circles, seething like a caged and wounded animal.

She came to a stop before her bookshelf. Both hands found their way to the top shelf, and she allowed the sturdy structure to support her as she listed her weight onto it.

Her knees had gone weak, taking on the consistency of rubber. Her legs simply unable to maintain her standing position a second longer without assistance.

A molten, scarlet rage seized hold of her.

Few experiences or sets of circumstances had ever angered her as completely and to the core as the hideous Yensul affair had.

The vile taste it left behind- an uneasy, nauseating sensation that somehow she had not truly finished cleaning up the entire mess- had haunted her since the last of the Yensuli had left her caring oversight aboard the Federation flagship.

She had worried ever after that the problems exposed and created by that mission had not ended with the resettlement of the widows and orphans; all of them females who had been dumped by the male ruling class of their species onto a hidden, frozen, and desolate L class planet disguised as a moon by stolen technology.

Liis grew even more bitterly disgusted as she tried to fathom that an act she viewed one of courage and bravery- Blane's act of dispatching the Yensuli sappers who were making their second attempt on the lives of the Alchemy's crew as they struggled to survive after crashing- was now the very action that Special Ops was holding over him in order to press him back into their service.

They had twisted the facts of the situation, of this she had no doubt. Omitted key elements to create a darker rendering- one that surely made Blane's just and decisive acts seem criminal.

She wondered if they'd taken the time to investigate deeply enough to discover the hundreds of rock piled graves, so easily distinguishable from the rest of the landscape of Yensul IV.

Graves filled with the bodies of the innocents whose blood stained the hands of not only those three sappers, but every Yensuli male who had participated, either directly or passively, in their slaughter over the previous four centuries of linear time.

She would never forget the look on Blane's face when he'd told her how he'd discovered the gravesite.

It had taken a long time for him to speak of it, and it happened late one night only after they'd finished compiling the crew reports for the Yensul mission to relay to Starfleet.

He'd clutched a drink as he spoke, and spent most of the time staring into it as he broke the truth to her in hushed tones. Zanh had sat there, unable to think of anything appropriate to say in response as her cup of coffee went cold in her hands.

In the end, she'd apologized for not being able to offer some small consolation, and Blane's reply had been as simply heartbreaking as the story, and situation, itself.

"It's all right, Zanh Liis." He had whispered. "What is there to say?"

In the current moment, Liis felt the weakness that had frozen her into place mutate into a rush of dizzying strength.

She picked up a heavy chunk of rose quartz; a gift from Admiral Vox meant to serve as a bookend on one side of her shelf opposite an equal-sized chunk of highly polished geode.

She hefted the quartz with one hand, tossing it into the air and catching it.



Three times.

Her mind regurgitated venomous images of assorted forms of retribution and destruction that she would love to unleash upon the life and career of the person had done this to her friend Thomas Blane, whoever they may be.

She spun around and drew her arm back.

In an instant, she was poised to launch the crystal as hard as she could, smashing for a certainty anything that was between her and the wall of stained glass behind her desk, as well as the glass itself.

She gasped a deep breath, preparing to unleash an unholy scream as she let go the projectile in an attempt to achieve at least some small release of the feelings that held her savagely captive.

Just as she was about to throw the crystal, Liis stopped her arm's forward motion, allowing it to swing free with the quartz still clutched tightly in her hand.

It dangled there, suspended, for a long time before she was able to dictate the command from her brain to her grasping fingers that she wanted to let it go.

She was trying to build something here, with this new life, aboard the Serendipity. Not destroy. She owed herself better than to give in to blind, impotent rage.

She owed Blane better.

She set the crystal gently down, returning it to its proper place aboard the shelf beside her volume of Tennyson.

Wrung out from the restraint it had taken to abort her first instinctual act of violence, Liis sank to the ground. She crumpled down onto the deck and sat with her legs crossed, her head hanging low.

She realized that perhaps she should be angriest with herself, of all people. She never should have sent Blane to Yensul. She should have risked all possible potential fall out- and gone herself in his place despite anyone's objections.

She recalled with clarity as bright and brilliant as sunrise the moment the decision had been made.


"Do you want to take anyone with you?" She asked, hating the idea of him going alone.

TC thought about it for a moment, there were very few people on board that were qualified for something like this and some of them might have an issue with it on principle. After a moment he shook his head.

“Just me. There is no reason for more then one career to be ruined if things go sour.”

His face turned grim. “Considering the situation this would be best. I would suggest that you have security put together a retrieval team. Just in case.”

"We will put together the retrieval team, but I want you to know one thing for certain before you go, Thomas," Zanh insisted, putting her hand on his shoulder.

"If anyone's career is going to tank over this, it'll be mine, not yours, I promise you that. I would never let one of my officers take the fall for a decision I'm making. And I'm the one making the decision to send you."

"But I volunteered. Suggested, even,"

"I" Zanh repeated evenly, "made the decision."

-=Flashback continued: Days later; after Blane's return from Yensul:=-

"I felt it important to fill you in on the undocumented details because it has been my experience that, experiences like these sometimes do not stay buried."

He stood taller. "I did not want you to be in the dark should this come back around on me."

"On me, you mean. I'm the one who sent you there. I'm the one who, shall we say, skirted standard operating procedures." Zanh replied.

"Therefore, I take responsibility for any actions that you committed on the planet should it ever become an issue. But the fact that you came to me, and told me this?" she paused, "That means more to me than I can articulate, and I won't forget it. You're a good man, and I thank you."

"I appreciate your willingness to protect me, Captain Zanh," Blane was suddenly all formality as he clenched his hands into fists at his side. "But I take responsibility for my own decisions."

"I know you do, and you would." Zanh assured him. "If the day ever comes when that sense of duty and responsibility is warranted, I promise you I will let you stand up and take your punishment, whatever it may be. In other words, Mr. Blane, I am not trying to be your mother and protect you no matter what you do. But in this case, I believe that your use of force was justified and I would say that to anyone who would challenge it."

--=End Flashback=--

She was beholden to Blane, in so many ways.

She had promised to defend him. To protect him. Now, she had to find a way to help him.

She realized sadly that it was not only careers that were at stake now. It was Blane's future and possibly his life as well as hers if they were turned over to the Yensuli to stand trial for ending the lives of those soldiers.

Blane was not protecting their badges. He was protecting her life, above all else, just as he'd promised.

There had to be a way out of this. Had to be.

Liis' mind raced furiously as she tried to turn the random ravings into a useful plan of action.

Whoever was blackmailing him with this did not deserve to call themselves a Starfleet Officer.

Whoever did this to him should be made to answer for it.

Something within her clicked, and hatred and anger turned to resolve and determination.

Who ever was holding the lever to the gallows that they'd forced Blane to stand upon, was of Special Ops.

That meant that they also had a checkered history.

Anyone could be made to stumble based on past indiscretions.

It was now Zanh's purpose that the person controlling Blane by remote was not only going to trip, but they were going to be the one justly dangling from the noose when all was said and done.

Captain Zanh Liis
Commanding Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

121: Between the Lines

by TC Blane and Zanh Liis
Current Time: Following Preparation


TC left the conference room as quietly as he had entered.

His quiet demeanor had not gone unnoticed, neither had the dark collar he wore. So far no one had confronted him about the change, other then Lt. Blakeslee. He wondered if it was because they did not know how to start the conversation, or if it was something else.

He passed Zander, who was standing at the tactical station talking with an ensign that TC was unfamiliar with, as he made his way to the Ops station. He silently relieved the lieutenant that was manning the console.

He pulled up the ships current engineering diagrams and set about preparing the best configuration for assigning sensor usage to the departments that would need them.

He mentally noted that this would be a good opportunity to test the new sensor links between the Sera and the Alchemy. Providing the Alchemy was ready for such a chore.

TC again wondered why such a risky assignment was giving to the Sera and her crew. Perhaps the Admiral wanted to put the crew through their paces, after all he did hand pick the majority of the senior staff for one reason or another.

Perhaps this was his first test. In any case, TC would make sure that his department would be ready.

=^= A Few Hours Later =^=

TC looked down on his handiwork. He had come up with four scenarios for usage of the sensors, all based on the operational needs of the Sera. The primary plan was based on the assumption that all would go well, and then each successive plan reassigned sensor priority based on the deterioration of the perfect situation.

He saved the configurations and then sent Commander Salvek his department’s status report.

“Excuse me, Commander Blane.” A voice from the Communications console called out.

TC looked up. “Yes?”

“You have a priority message coming in. It is titled your eyes only.”

TC glanced around at the stares that he was getting from the bridge staff, especially Commander Salvek.

TC stood taller and straightened his duty jacket as he turned on his heel. “I’ll take it in the conference room.” He strode off of the bridge and into the conference room. As the doors slid shut behind him he turned and secured them.

He made his way to the monitor in the room and entered his access code. There was a beep as the computer requested the secondary access code; the one that was recently given to him by Special Ops. He sighed as he entered that secondary code.

After a moment the message was displayed. It was text only. It took him about three minutes to read it though to the end. His appearance and demeanor grew darker, the more he read.

“Son of a..” He hit the power to the terminal and turned quickly towards the door.

Unlocking it he marched out onto the bridge, stopping for a moment as he glared at each of the staff assembled there. His eyes fell onto Dabin Reece, or more specifically, the tricorder on his duty belt.

TC marched toward Dabin with such purpose in his stride and such a menacing look on his face the Commander Salvek, who was currently manning the center seat stood up in concern and Dabin shirked away slightly.

TC stopped in front of Dabin and held out his hand. “May I borrow you tricorder, Commander Reece?”

Dabin was for a moment at a loss for words. Commander Salvek, however, was not. “Commander Blane is there a problem?”

TC held up his other hand silencing the Sera’s first officer while continuing to wait for Dabin to respond.

“Umm, sure.” Dabin removed the device and handed it to TC, who flipped it open and turned to face Salvek.

“Yes, I believe there is a problem. One that I intend to correct.” He turned on his heel once again and made his way towards the captain’s ready room, and he began to make some changes to the tricorder settings.

Salvek was close on his heels, his own concern growing about TC’s attitude as well as the undisclosed problem that he spoke up.

TC hit the door chime.


TC strode through the door and into the captains ready room with Salvek close on his heels.

“Commander Blane what can I do to. . .” She was also silenced by TC when he raised his index finger to his lips in the universal sign for silence.

Zanh stood up from her chair and exchanged concerned looks with Salvek as TC held up the tricorder and began scanning the office. For a minute or two the only sounds that could be heard in the ready room were the low hum of the Sera’s engines and the digital beeps of the tricorder.

Zanh, who was already in a foul mood, was beginning to lose patience with her Second Officer when suddenly from one of the overhead light fixtures came a quiet buzzing. It grew louder as the seconds drifted on.

TC let loose a crooked smile in triumph as he closed the tricorder and deftly hopped up onto the captain’s desk. Even with the tricorder turned off the buzzing continued as TC fiddled around with the fixture for a moment.


He hopped down from the desk with a small object in his hand. His muscles in his forearm flexed and an electronic pop could be heard and the buzzing was gone. He unceremoniously tossed the object onto the desk for the Captain and First Officer to see.

“You got bugs.”

Zanh Liis slammed her fist against the desk, and she swore loudly and emphatically in her mother language.

Her exclamation was a word not programmed into the Universal Translator for reasons of 'proper etiquette'; and Salvek and Blane simply stared straight ahead as the sound resonated through the room.

Both knew exactly what that particular word meant. Salvek because of his wife's past use of colorful Bajoran euphemisms, and Blane because, well, he just knew.

"Since you said that we have bugs aloud, I take it that was the only one in here and we can speak freely?"

TC nodded. “Affirmative. This room is clean but I would suggest that the rest of the ship is checked. Especially critical areas.”

He turned and tossed the tricorder to commander Salvek.

“The Gu-24 micro recorder transmitter is susceptible to high frequency beta band waves. They have the tendency to over load and therefore feedback, giving away there position. The one weakness of the device since they are self cloaking.”

He looked at Zanh. “Special Ops still prefers them because beta band frequencies are rarely used.” He shrugged his shoulders. “My guess is that they were installed during the final days of construction.”

“How did you know?” Salvek asked.

TC’s face darkened. “I not at liberty to discuss that.”

Zanh's last nerve was growing more frayed by the second. She looked at Blane across the desk and reminded herself that he wasn't being evasive in order to provoke her.

Still, it made her job harder and it was already making things more complicated and time consuming, when it came to running the ship.

In the past, she had the luxury of just looking at Blane and Salvek and saying "Go."

With that one word assignment, the two men would bring their teams together seamlessly. Their task, whatever it was, would be finished quickly, completely, and without drama.

It seemed that as long as Blane wore that collar, those days were behind them.

"Salvek can I have a moment with Mr. Blane?"

The Vulcan nodded. "Of course, Captain. I will take this information and begin sweeping the ship."

"Begin with the Alchemy," Zanh insisted. "Send a team in there immediately. Then Engineering, then Science, Sickbay. Every senior staff office, the dining hall, "

Zanh sighed, a headache taking fierce hold of her when she thought about how easy it would be for other kinds of surveillance to be aboard as well.

"I know Reece is so busy his head is likely about to explode. But I want him to fine tune a couple dozen tricorders to increase the spectrum of their standard scans and give them to Security, so they can perform redundant sweeps for secondary spy ware systems."

"Alchemy." Salvek began repeating her list back to her. "Engineering, Science, Sickbay. Senior staff offices, the dining halls and lounges. . ." he paused.

"The main bridge, Captain?" He inquired, thinking she was just tired and had omitted where she really meant for him to begin, thinking it obvious.

"Bridge of the Sera gets debugged last." Zanh answered. "Whoever is listening, I would like it to take them awhile to figure out that the show is over."

"Aye, Captain."

"Thank you, Salvek. Oh, and one more thing," She looked at him and sighed. "Don't forget the Arboretum."

All three officers suddenly thought about the types of conversations that they'd had with each other in the past in the Arboretum, aboard this ship and another.

Suddenly, they all felt violated.

Somehow it seemed less invasive for there to be listening devices on main areas of the ship- but the location where they were most likely to let down their guard? That was infuriating.

The moment the Vulcan left, Zanh turned to Blane.

"We have a problem, as I'm sure you're well aware by now." Zanh began, wasting no time because she knew that TC was all about getting down to business.

"Affirmative. We have bugs." He answered stiffly.

"You know that's not what I meant." Zanh moved from behind her desk and paced before it. "Not at liberty. Those are quickly becoming my least favorite Universal Standard words."

TC's stance softened. He glanced back to make sure that Salvek had left. “Captain…Zanh. I understand that you do not like this.” He stepped closer to her. “I am doing my job. What I swore to do.”

He needed her to understand that he did not want to do this, he needed her to know WHY he did this. He needed to find a way to let her know with out his keepers finding out. He was confident that all of the bugs were found, but not positive. He frowned, struggling with himself.

Suddenly, he looked up at her. “My duty is to protect The Alchemy Project from all those who would harm or steal that information.”

As he spoke, he also began to sign.


“A bug in this office is a security breach that I cannot allow.”


“Even if it was installed by Spec Ops, I cannot be sure who is listening on the other end.”


He sighed. “As I told you before, Captain.”


“I will protect my ship…”


“…and my Captain…”


“…until hell freezes over.” He stared at Zanh.

A look of absolute horror crossed the Captain's face.

She stumbled a few steps in reverse, pitching back and toward the desk. Before she had a chance to injure herself or make contact with the furniture or deck, Blane stepped forward to steady her. A strong hand on each arm, he allowed her to find her footing.

She slowly sat down on the edge of the desk.

Her worst nightmare when it came to dreaming up reasons why Blane might have accepted the uniform, had just been trumped by one so devastating she hadn't even allowed herself to consider it as an option before now.

Blane had seen her in physical pain before. A great deal of it in fact, in recent weeks since her rescue. But he'd never seen her countenance reflect anything close to the image of pain that was etched into it now.

Liis mirrored his actions in using spoken words and signs.
She stood nearer to him and gestured very guardedly, with her hands close to her chest.

"I know you're doing your job,"

[[Please just tell me you're not only doing this to protect me.]]

"But if I run into a brick wall time and again when I ask you questions,"

[[Because you don't have to. I take responsibility for every single thing that happened on Yensul. I sent you there. My orders, my responsibility.]]

"My patience is going to start running rather thin." She concluded, shoulders slumping.

“I understand your concern. I will perform my duties as you Second Officer as you expect of me.” [[I am doing my duty]] He signed back. “But when it comes to certain things pertaining to spec ops, I cannot answer.”

He stepped away from her. “Now, I hope that we have an understanding, Captain.”

Zanh exhaled heavily, feeling defeated, and nodded slowly. Once again for the benefit of any remaining, unseen listening devices that may be in the room she was forced to find the will to speak aloud.

"You're dismissed, Commander."

“I’ll go and assist Commander Salvek with those scans.” With sad eyes, he turned and left the ready room.

Commander TC Blane
Second Officer/Chief of Operations/Spec Ops
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


=/\= Zanh Liis
Commanding Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

120: One of Many Tasks

By Avery Breaux
After Preparations

--=Engineering: USS Alchemy; in her bay aboard the Sera=--

To say that the work in Engineering had been a grind, was an understatement. Many, many things had to be replaced, overhauled, and refitted. Far more than they had anticipated.

The two crews had worked non-stop and had attended to every request that Breaux or Kellyn had put to them.

Breaux had numerous padds strewn about the console in front of him, not to mention the countless coffee cups.

"Who keeps putting these damned cups here?" Breaux called out to no one in particular. None of the passing crew had the heart to tell him that they all belonged to him.

Avery was lost in his work and as he continued, crew passed dropping off padds on the left side of the console, which now officially served as the 'in basket', while the right side was the 'out basket'. Padds on the right side were retrieved and then taken to their next assignment.

Sleeves rolled up, Avery kept working and ciphering, offering suggestions where warranted. His work was occasionally interrupted by a trip to the core, or a wall console, not to mention the scattered trips underneath work consoles or traipsing about in Jeffries Tubes. There were moments when he stopped, looked up or about and listened to the hum of the work going on and took pleasure in the job getting done.

It was in one of the Jeffries Tubes where he thought of her.

As he was descending after fixing yet another faulty relay his thoughts had traveled to Alessa. He stopped climbing and stared first straight ahead and then upward. Finally, balancing himself on the ladder rungs, he allowed himself to rest his forehead on one of the upper rungs. Thoughts flashed through his mind, memories of the past...but he felt stronger this time, and wasn't going to succumb to any more thoughts of the past.

He righted himself and flew down the ladder quickly and entered Engineering once again. "Be back in five," he announced to the senior lead of the second crew.

Breaux made his way to his quarters and once inside headed straight for the desk.

He took the padd with the last of his medical exam work and tapped in the necessary codes to have it downloaded to Starfleet Medical...pressing the send button the screen flashed the appropriate Starfleet logo and then announced in script,


Breaux nodded and set the padd down. He stood for a moment looking out the view portal and then spun quickly to head back to Engineering aboard the Alchemy.


Lt SG Avery Breaux
USS Serendipity NCC-2012
USS Alchemy NX-53099

119: Preparation

By Commander Salvek
Stardate: 80126.2200
About an hour after Honor Bound

The conversation in the Captain's ready room had been brief.

Salvek followed her in to present his suggestions for boosting the structural integrity field despite her "request" that he "save it" till the staff meeting. She sat behind her desk stabbing at her computer terminal. As Salvek spoke she increased the volume of the already piercing piece of music she was listening to.

Salvek was not the type to take a hint easily, but eventually he could get there. He set down the PADDs with his suggestions on her desk and took his leave of her.

"You have the bridge Mr. Blane." Salvek said, as he strode directly from Zanh Liis's ready room to the conference room behind the bridge. He spent the next hour reviewing the mission briefing to share it with the senior staff.

Salvek was going to need not only the department heads in this meeting, but also their second in command, as the Alchemy would likely see action on this mission so whomever was on the bridge of either ship would need to be brought up to speed.

To that end he invited Reece and Samson from Science; Lair, Breaux and Dengar from Engineering; O'Sullivan and Dalca from Security; Terasha and McKay from Medical; Blane and Ensign Ortiz from Operations; and Blakeslee and Ensign Papelbon from Tactical. February Grace and Ensign Toby Ellison would represent Flight Control.

TC Blane was the first to arrive. Salvek sat near the end of the table, reserving the last seat at the end for the Captain. TC sat clear down at the far end of the room. He folded his hands and looked out the window at the stars.

Salvek wasn’t quite sure what to make of Blane anymore. He made no attempt to exchange pleasantries. He usually only did so because it set humans and other species at ease to do so. If TC did not wish to engage in small talk, Salvek certainly wasn’t going to force the issue.

Blane could feel the First Officer's eyes boring through him as he stared out the window. Salvek could not understand Blane’s decision to rejoin Special Operations, because he had to know doing so would engender a feeling of distrust among his crew mates. What he did know from his actions in the mission to save Zanh Liis was that Blane was a good man and an honest officer. Therefore, Salvek concluded, the only reason Blane would have for returning to such a nefarious group would be if he had been blackmailed into doing so.

Still, the fact remained that Blane was a Special Ops officer, whether willingly or not. For that reason Salvek would be closely watching Blane for any sign of subterfuge. The uniform commanded a certain level of distrust, even if the man wearing it did not.

Salvek continued to stare down the table at Blane. No words were spoken between the two, but Salvek made his position perfectly clear to TC in that moment.

“Aww, Frenchy didn’t make any food for this party?” Dabin Reece entered the room, and flopped down in the chair next to Blane. The tension broken, Salvek returned his attention to the PADD in front of him.

The rest of the invitees filed in, each taking a seat. Zanh Liis was the last to enter. She strode stiffly along the edge of the room to the seat Salvek had reserved for her. She sat down and spun away from the table, towards the screen that would display the presentation.

“I believe you have a briefing prepared for us Commander, proceed.” Liis said simply.

“Of course, Captain.”

Salvek brought up the schematic of system Beta-626. He shared with everyone the information that Admiral Vox had given to them earlier.

“We may need to use the Alchemy to get a closer scan of the star without endangering the larger population aboard the Serendipity, that is why I have called for the command staff of both ships to be present.”

Salvek began going from person to person around the table, updating each with his expectations from their departments.

“Terasha. We are expecting high levels of radiation. We will be keeping the ship at a safe distance but if the worse should happen here or on the Alchemy, your staff should be prepared to treat the crew for exposure.

“Mr. Blakeslee, please run a level one diagnostic on all shielding systems, we cannot afford a failure at our proximity to this star. Mr. Reece, you know your role in this mission. Mr. Blane, the science department is going to be using each sensor array and several solar probes to study the star. Your duty will be to coordinate with the discipline leaders in science to ensure everyone has the time and access to the sensors that they require.

Salvek shifted his attention from the left side of the table to the right.

“Mr. O’Sullivan, I would like Security to work with the Science department as well. Use your knowledge of other species technologies to see if your recognize any of their fingerprints in the sensor data we collect.

"Commander Lair, you will need stay on top of the ships systems, especially structural integrity due to the fluctuating gravitational forces around the star. I have prepared a few modifications. Did you have a chance to review them yet Captain?”

Salvek looked down at Zanh Liis. “Salvek, if you and Kellyn feel they will help us out, then by all means, make the modifications.”

“Very well. Finally, Lieutenant Grace, your job will be to constantly monitor the stresses on the ships hull, and adjust our position accordingly to ensure we do not become trapped in the gravitational pull of the star.”

Salvek stepped to the viewscreen and tapped the control pad, turning the viewer off. He looked out over the room.

“We arrive in one day. Please submit department readiness reports to me in twelve hours. Are there any questions?”

Commander Salvek
First Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

118: Loose Lips

By Commander TC Blane and Fleur Le Marc
Following Chit Chat Cafe

--=The Aft Observation Lounge/Afterthought Cafe=--

TC sat staring out of the large aft windows of the Afterthought Café for hours. He never returned to his quarters to sleep. Sleep was something that was not coming to him in recent nights and he had found the quiet serenity of the café to be relaxing. So he sat here, and contemplated his thoughts as well as tried to steady himself for the day to come. It promised to be interesting.

Suddenly the lights of the café illuminated with increasing brightness, and a voice came from behind him.

"Mon dieu vous m'avez effrayé à la mort!" Fleur blurted. To Blane's ears through the Universal Translator he heard her exclamation as "My god, you scared me to death!"

"Sorry," TC said, noticing that her arms were full of what appeared to be bags of flour and cartons of eggs. "Can I make it up to you by helping you with that?"

"Yes, yes." Fleur said, catching her breath. "There is a cart out in the hall. Help me unload it please? I am behind already in starting this morning's baking."

TC obliged and helped the tiny woman as she lined things up on a countertop.

"Baking? I thought with running the main kitchen, that you wouldn't have time to work back here and we'd have to make do with replicated donuts." He smiled at her a little, remembering the things she used to bake back at their previous assignment. "Not that I'm complaining."

"The main kitchen is no longer my assignment, nor my problem." Fleur announced, pausing to blow a stray strand of hair back out of her face.


"I was, how do you put it, replaced. By one Angus MacDougal."

"You mean the same guy who,"

"Yes. The one who ran Seven with London on the other ship." Fleur explained. "When I asked London to bring in help for the dinner to get me out of the tight spot that I was put into, I didn't expect that he would do so on a permanent basis. I did not know that MacDougal had already grown bored at his previous location and wanted to follow London off on his new adventure. He was already on his way here and Trick did not tell me." She rolled her eyes.

"However, perhaps this has more to do with punishing me for my past indiscretions as far as Starfleet is concerned, I do not know. In any event, it pleases me. I would much rather run this small kitchen and make it my own back here, in the quiet and away from the bustle. It is what I am best at."

TC nodded. "Well then things worked out for the best then for you."

Made a trip out into the corridor and brought in another load of baking supplies and gently placed them onto the counter. It took two more trips to empty the contents of the cart onto the counter. Fleur thanked him as she began putting things in order.

"Well I think you are getting the better deal anyway. Sugar and caffeine, makes a good combo in my mind. Plus..." He nodded to the surroundings. "...I like to décor. It is good to know they are not just leaving replicators in here. A personal touch will make this place even better." He smiled.

"Meh." Fleur frowned. "The décor needs a few living things to bring humanity to its perfection. I will take care of that the first chance I get." She was already envisioning plants along the wall where the window seats were situated. "It will do."

He glanced up at the clock on the wall, thirty minutes left until he was due on the bridge. "Is there anything else I can help with?" He glanced at the various brewing devices behind the bar and winked.

Fleur sighed. She opened her mouth to say something but preempted the statement before it left her lips. She wanted to ask him so badly how things had gone on Bajor, how the Vedek was doing, if TC happened to know why he had again lost his power of speech.

She already knew the answer in her heart, though, she knew even before she'd seen him. She believed that the Prophets were not pleased with him, and she had fully expected when he returned, if he returned with Zanh Liis, that they would have struck him silent once again as penance, as they had before.

"Yes. Your uniform looks different. But you are still the Operating Chief yes?"


"Then can you operate me a larger oven down here? Perhaps two? There are six in the main kitchen, and that is far more than they need. I cannot bake for 150 people on a daily basis with the thing that is around the corner. With that and two other ovens, I could get by."

TC cringed at the mention of his uniform; he had, for a moment forgotten about it. "I think I might be able to arrange at least one to be relocated here for you." He forced a smile. "Because I think that ship morale will benefit."

"Thank you very much. Whatever you can arrange, I will make it work."

He once again glanced at a particular espresso machine. "Are you sure I can't help with anything. Like, oh lets say, make some coffee?"

"Oui, Oui, where are my manners?" She took a bag of coffee beans out and then pulled something from a box that had been on her cart.

She removed what appeared to be an antique. . .whatever it was. The item consisted of a large wooden box of some sort, with a manually operated crank handle on the side. A black iron grate hid a small compartment inside and beneath there was a drawer.

Fleur smiled at Blane and opened the compartment. She took a bag of coffee beans from her supplies and ripped them open, then poured them into the contraption. She snapped the door shut and then gestured to the handle. "If you want good results, sometimes you have to put in a little extra effort. If you will grind the beans, I will assemble the percolator."

"Percolator?" TC raised an eyebrow, unfamiliar with the term.

"Yes. These have been in my family for generations, and they go with me wherever I go. Little, happy pieces of home."

*Just about the only happy pieces.* She thought.

He set to work grinding out the beans, it was laborious but oddly fun. It only took a few minute to reduce the beans to a sand like powder.

"How is this?" He shows the results of his labor to Fleur who nodded her approval. He handed her the grounds and she set to work brewing the coffee.

TC leaned back against the bar as watched her perform her magic. He frowned as his ever active mind wandered to the new bakery chef and her recent history. He sighed as he once again remembered the black collar he wore and what it entailed.

"So why did you stow away on the Alchemy?" He asked bluntly.

Fleur looked up at him, staring straight back at him. "Why did you go on 'vacation' in order to join the mission, Monsieur Blane?"

"It was not my attempt to join the mission, only to protect my captain. I knew I could help."

"Then there is the answer to your question, why did I stow away. I wanted to help."

"I didn't know you were so fond of Captain Zanh."

"I am not." She answered honestly. "I am fond of her crew. Some of them I have known for years, I fed them every day more than once most days aboard the deep space station. I did not know quite how I could help," She explained, "But I took the chance that I might, in the end, be able to somehow. That is why I did it."

TC nodded understanding but was not buying the explanation. "Fair enough." He scratched his chin. "How did you get by security? I mean the Alchemy was a secured ship, top secret. Getting on board would be a feat, especially for a culinary master such as yourself."

"You are suggesting, Monsieur Blane, that my talents lie only in the kitchen?" She flashed him a rare, wicked grin. "I assure you, that is not the case." She coyly allowed him a moment to consider, and to make whatever he wished of the statement. "Are you asking me merely out of curiosity? Or perhaps the higher-ups in your new department want to know, eh?"

Blane's jaw set in barely contained frustration. Even the kitchen help knew what his collar meant on sight.

"Once again I would remind you, Commander, that I spent years on Deep Space 23. All manner of Starfleet people came in and out of that place. I learned a few useful things. Some skills, I had already brought with me . . ."

Her eyes were vacant and TC wondered what she was remembering as she continued. "But, regardless of why you are asking," She decided not to evade him any longer when the answer was so uncomplicated.

"I am small. The guards were distracted. It was as simple, sadly, as picking a moment of opportunity and climbing into one of the larger containers on the anti-gravity unit. I did not sneak onto the ship. Once I sneaked onto the cart, they wheeled me on without a thought. That is the truth."

TC nodded. His gut told him that she was telling him the truth. Years of experience told him that her reason for doing it was not out of the goodness of her heart, well not completely.

"OK. Enough questions. I do not want to piss off my caffeine source." He smiled. "Thank you for being so frank."

"Thank you," Fleur added, nodding slowly, "For taking my answers at face value even though you know that I am not being entirely truthful with you."

Blane's eyes widened a little. Whatever had happened to her in her past, or wherever she'd been in her life in the twenty-seven years she'd lived before she found herself on this Federation starship, one thing was certain. Fleur Le Marc was not ordinary kitchen help.

Fleur had never spoken of her feelings for the Vedek outright to anyone before, but as she watched TC Blane now with his coffee cup in hand, continually tugging every few moments unconsciously at the collar which seemed to be too tight for him mentally if not physically, she felt she could tell him the truth.

"Special Operations. You are good at keeping secrets, yes?"

TC nodded slowly.

"Then if I tell you the truth of why I hid aboard the Alchemy, you will tell no one?"


Fleur sighed. She wondered if she should take the leap, and then she figured that perhaps the man with the lovely, troubled blue eyes could use the distraction of thinking about someone else's worries, even if only for a moment.

Instead of speaking, she raised her hands gracefully into the air and began to sign.

[[I did it, because I love him.]]

TC pondered for a moment. This was a big deal for the ships new barista. He knew that she had opened herself up. It suddenly occurred to him that she could be a valuable resource.

[[The gossip proceeded you]] He signed back.

Now her eyes widened. "I was not aware that you could sign so well."

TC smiled. "That is my secret for you to keep."

"It is my job not to be left out of any conversation." He looked at the coffee. "I am truly sorry for intruding into your personal life. One of the tasks I have been given is to protect this project, unfortunately for me to do that effectively I have to make sure it is safe from the locals first, if you know what I mean."

Fleur nodded. She frowned a little.

"Problem?" TC inquired.

"Gossip." She said. She hated the thought that she was so transparent.

"Don't worry. If there is one person who seems completely oblivious to the. . . gossip," TC chose the words carefully. "It's 'him'."

Fleur was relieved. She didn't care if everyone else on the ship thought her a fool, just so long as the Vedek did not.

"Loose lips sink ships." She added. "Is that so in space as well as on the ocean?"



Commander TC Blane
Second Officer/Chief of Operations/Special Ops
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


Fleur Le Marc
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

117: In One Cup or Two

By Lair Kellyn and Avery Breaux
Current Time: Following First Day

--=Main Engineering; USS Serendipity=--

Avery became aware of her voice long before he was aware of her presence visually.

Of course, he had no idea that the female lyric soprano happily trilling out that piercingly clear aria as it approached with maddeningly rising volume belonged to his department leader, Lair Kellyn.

As she rode the open lift down from the second level of main engineering, she finished her scale up to a flawless crescendo. The sound reverberated off all the walls, and seemed to be magnified somehow by the thrumming of the warp core.

She stepped off the lift, grinning ear to ear.

She observed with perverse pleasure the expression that crossed Breaux's face. She walked up to him and gently patted him on the shoulder. "Sorry. Was I singing too loud? I just love the acoustics in here."

Her first inclination was to slap him heartily on the back, but she just wasn't that mean.

Still, a hangover on the first day of duty was just cause, in her book, for a little teasing at the very best, and strict reprimand at worst. Avery's ability to perform his duties seemed not the least bit impaired, which was lucky for him because she'd have come in doing a lot worse than singing if she had observed that it was.

She was all for celebrating and having a good time, but she was nothing if not exacting when it came to running a very tight ship in her department. She surveyed the crew around her as they worked on their various tasks.

"How is everyone this bright, shiny, new morning? That was quite a launch last night wasn't it?"

"Yeah." The young crewman that Breaux had been working near, Jack Halliday, saluted her with his hydrospanner. "We were watching and listening to the audio feed of the Captain's speech down in Illusions Lounge. The party seemed to migrate from the arboretum after the senior staff left, and the atmosphere among the crew down there was. . .spirited. Very. . ." he smiled at her. "Festive."

"Looks like it was spirited among the senior officers too." Kellyn wiggled her eyebrows mischievously at Breaux. "I had one beer with Keiran and then I swore off. Looked like a boy's club at that table anyway. Much as I like to think of myself as just one of the guys, even I know when to step off."

Breaux managed, "I should have tried harder in the Critical Decision class in the Academy." Avery handed Kellyn a series of padds with completed tasks outlined in great detail. The last of the padds were suggestion as to things that might need their attention in the near future.

"I'm having one of the teams make some adjustment to the Bussard collecters...we found on Erasmus that we could increase our deuterium collection by 17%, which always helps in a pinch," Avery advised as Kellyn scrolled through the padds.

He hesitated before continuing, "I also made available some work I've done with antihydrogen...it's helped us in a pinch or two...given us power where we didn't have it before -nothing Earth shaking, just helpful."As Kellyn went over the material he moved to the replicator to refuel on coffee. Engineering always had a less officious approach to their demeanor, as opposed to work on the Bridge. Breaux asked Kellyn if she wanted some, herself.

"Always. Mocha Latte, please." Kellyn continued reading the info he'd handed her as he moved away.

"Coffee, double cream," Breaux commanded and the replicator made yet another concoction of the dark mistress. "Mocha Latte." Avery handed Kellyn her mug, and received only a nod of acknowledgement as she took it into her free hand and continued reading.

Avery held his cup to his nose, inhaling and closing his eyes. "Good Gods..." he quietly uttered before sipping.

He made his way over to the console nearest Kellyn and finished some detail work on yet another project. He waited for any instructions or updates she might have.

"These are impressive improvisational modifications, Mr. Breaux. I'd like to get to work on implementing them immediately. Thank you for suggesting them."

Breaux smiled in reply.

"We need to have a long, ugly, talk about the Alchemy. With everybody in the department." Kellyn announced, feeling that for the moment Sera was doing well and that she could focus more of her attention on resurrecting the poor prototype.

"We burned out her transwarp drive when we were forced to make a jump before it was fully recharged on the way back from the rescue," Kellyn informed Breaux. "It has to be stripped down. Warp coils, matter anti-matter reaction assembly, power transfer conduits. . ." She paused and sipped her coffee, clinging to the mug for dear life. "She can be repaired. Which is good. What is bad, is that it's going to require a lot of my time and I can use all the help I can get."

Kellyn swirled the liquid in her cup a little to mix the chocolate flavoring more thoroughly through the coffee, as for some reason, it had a tendency to settle in the bottom.

"What this means, Mr. Breaux, is not only will I need your assistance working on the Alchemy, but with your experience and years of training, when I'm gone on Alchemy missions, you'll be heading up Sera's engineering department." She took another sip and then looked up at him over the rim of the cup. "What say you to that?"

"I'm honored...thank you...more than willing to do what I can," offered Breaux. He gave it a beat, "Say the word and I'll assemble the teams..." he paused, not wanting to seem ungrateful, "...do you forsee a time when you'll need me on the Alchemy?"

"Kind, humble sir, a man of your skill and experience?" Kellyn said, pausing to drain the rest of her cup dry in a hurry in order to roll up her sleeves and get to work. "I can't imagine a time when we won't need you."

Breaux nodded and smiled, feeling slightly ashamed, yet needed, "It seems I'm conflicted by more than Fleur's ability to craft delectable desserts...I'll get started right away."

Breaux turned to the young engineer, "Hardaway..."The young engineer hurried over, "It's Halliday, sir."

"What is?" Breaux said, absent-mindedly looking over a padd and considering work in lieu of the Alchemy and on board on occasion.

"My name sir...it's Halliday," the engineer managed.Avery looked around for Kellyn...she had moved to a console on the far side of Engineering, at least for the moment.Breaux leaned in toward the young man, his eyes riveted to his, "Did you just call me sir?"

The engineer took a half-step backward. Breaux continued, "Then...we're even," and he smiled broadly. "This padd takes top priority, get the two best teams YOU think we have and meet me here in one cup."

"One cup sir?" Halliday asked.

Breaux shook his head as though he was embattled, "The time it takes me to have another cup of coffee. Halliday, is this how our relationship is going to go?"

Halliday smiled, spun on his heels and headed off to round up the troops.

Lt. Avery Breaux
Engineering Officer
USS Serendipity/Alchemy


Lt. Commander Lair Kellyn
Chief Engineer
USS Serendipity/Alchemy

116: Honor Bound

by -=/\=- Captain Zanh
Following First Assignment

--=Bridge, USS Serendipity=--

Zanh Liis and Admiral Vox said not a word to each other as they moved into the turbolift.

"Transporter Room One." Vox ordered softly. His eyes were focused straight ahead, on the doors. "You have something you want to say." It was not a question, it was a statement.

Liis' line of vision was directed above, to the ceiling.

"I don't know what you're talking about." Zanh found her mood rapidly deteriorating. She was already unsettled after her visit from TC Blane earlier. Then things got worse with the mission briefing.

Liis did not like the idea that Sera was going on such a risky mission as part of her shakedown tour of the system. She had thought that they'd take a nice leisurely cruise, watching to be sure that Sera's systems were operational and trying to revive the toasted trans-warp drive of the Alchemy.

Now, they would have to perform those assessments and repairs while also dealing with a challenge that would keep any seasoned starship crew on their toes, no matter the ship they were aboard.

"Well, for one thing, your second officer is wearing black." Vox wanted to get this over with. Better to have her yell at him now and in person, if she was going to lose her temper, than later over subspace.

Years of dealing with Zanh had taught him that her temperament was similar to that of a container holding a carbonated beverage.

If you unscrewed the lid carefully and let the pent-up, compressed energy escape slowly, she would settle, and remain at rest.

If you yanked the cap off quickly with one twist, especially after the bottle had been shaken?

You'd end up with quite a mess to clean up as a result.

"Yes," Vox continued, provoking her intentionally. "Black. Is he in mourning?"

"Halt. Lift." Liis growled slowly.

She turned toward him. "Are you trying to throw fuel on the flames? You knew about TC's reassignment before the party, didn't you? You let me go on and make that speech about how we were all going to be one big team, undivided."

She shook her head. "Somehow now that I understand why he was looking at me the way he did last night, I feel like an ass. You should have told me as soon as you found out."

"Blane specifically requested that he be the one to tell you. Besides, Liis, you wouldn't have said anything any differently and you know it." Vox purred softly. "Was a lovely speech."

"Don't try to flatter me to smooth this over," Zanh balled her hands into fists. "This new development just stuck a huge wedge into the heart of my chain of command. You know that after Salvek there is no one I depend upon more than Blane. How did you let this happen?"

"I didn't let anything happen. I could do nothing to prevent it and I didn't do anything to cause it. . ." He saw the look on her face which was incredulous, and he had recant a little.

"OK, so nothing specific that caused it. It would seem that Special Operations went over my head. It seems the powers that be over there don't trust myself, or you to steward Alchemy's technology unchecked. I'm sorry, Zanh Liis but there is nothing that I can do about it," he narrowed his eyes. "For the time being."

"That seems to be what everyone keeps saying. For the time being. Thomas insisted that this is nothing anyone can help him with. I just have a sinking feeling that somehow, in some way, this is tied to me but I can't get him to tell me how," she paused.

"I have a theory or two, but he seemed so intent on avoiding all discussion of what they're holding over him that could be so bad that he'd accept the offer to spy on us. . .I didn't push him. I know this. He feels honor bound to accept his fate for now."

"You know very well that Special Operations, like Temporal Investigations, is a business where right and wrong are convoluted at best and totally indistinguishable at worst." Vox continued.

"I would advise you, not only as your Commanding Officer but also as your friend, Liis. For once, for god's sake, step back and let things be for awhile. If Blane tells you that he's handling it in his own way and time, and you trust him as much as you say you do, then just let him handle it. Computer, resume."

The lift whirred to life again and Liis looked away, biting her lip. Somehow when Vox spoke to her that way, with a certain tone, it smacked of parental guidance.

She didn't react well to that tactic.

"I do trust him, and contrary to what you may believe, I have learned when to let things go."

She looked him straight in the eyes again. "But be warned. I will run my ship as I see fit and I will not tolerate Special Operations or anyone else looking over my shoulder and back-seat driving. I do not need a nanny, I do not need surveillance and I will not have any agency or any person trying to be my own personal version of Jiminy freaking Cricket." Liis rasped.

"You just tell whoever it is that is pulling TC's strings behind the curtain that he's got friends who won't turn their backs on him. No matter the color of the collar of his uniform."

"I'll be happy," Vox said, a proud grin settling over his countenance, "to pass the message along." He couldn't wait to see the look on Tyra Do'Chal's face, matter of fact, as he did indeed pass the message along. Verbatim.

They arrived at the transporter room and Vox took to the platform. Zanh dismissed the Ensign at the controls and took them into her own hands.

"Anything else you want to ask me before I go?" The Admiral inquired.

"Yeah. You regretting your decision to give me this job yet?" Liis asked. She was only half joking.

"Not for a minute." Vox replied, without hesitation or sarcasm. "Keep in close contact via subspace."

"We will. Energizing."

"Zanh Liis," He held up his hand, motioning for her to delay a moment. "Remember, whatever is said or done, at the end of the day, this is your ship."

She nodded. "Believe me, I'll remember."


A moment later, Vox was gone. Liis made short work of the journey back to the bridge, where Salvek was waiting with an armload of PADDs and updates to convey. "Captain, if I can have a moment of your time,"

"Staff meeting is in an hour, Salvek. Unless something or someone is on fire, save it."

"Captain, I assure you that no one is on fire but,"

"Save it!" Zanh growled, and she disappeared through the doors without taking the PADDs from him.

The officers on the bridge exchanged glances, and Salvek stood still, simply blinking.

A moment passed in silence. All the officers familiar with Zanh from past assignments were waiting for something. When that something didn't happen, they all looked toward the doors to the Ready Room, puzzled.

"I don't believe it. Why can't we hear it?" Micah Samson asked Reece, as the two worked together to crunch the sensor data on Beta-626.

"Dunno. I can't believe she hasn't turned it on." Reece replied.

Salvek ignored the conversation going on around him and proceeded forward, following the Captain into the Ready Room even though he had not been invited.

When the doors parted and he stepped through, the sound of blaring music filled the bridge.

So loud, that several officers cringed, the remnants of the party last night still with them in the form of a headache they didn't want to have to go to Sickbay and request analgesics to relieve.

As soon as the doors snapped shut, the bridge was once again silent.

"Damn! They must've soundproofed it in anticipation of the Captain's personal. . . vicissitudes." Reece exclaimed. "Now that's forward thinking and good use of technology."

"Yeah, but did you notice what was playing?" February asked, eyebrows rising.

Dabin nodded, but the others around them shook their heads in confusion and waited for her to explain.

"She's listening to Green Day." Bru concluded with a sigh. "The Captain never listens to Green Day when she's happy."
-=/\=- Captain Zanh Liis
Commanding Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

115: Chit Chat Café

By Commander TC Blane
and Lt.(SG) Zander Blakeslee

--=Early Morning- Following Nothing Lasts Forever=--

Zander was duly impressed by the speech that Captain Zanh had given on the bridge prior to the Serendipity’s inaugural launch from space dock. He had been impressed from their first meeting in the arboretum and that was a handy task for any captain to do.

Zander’s career in Starfleet may not seem that long on paper but it had been distinguished. Plus, he was a Starfleet brat, his father having been an officer and died in its service. During his life he had met several officers and captains, many stood out in his mind. He felt that Captain Zanh Liis had the potential to be one.

He had stayed on the bridge just long enough to make sure the ensign that would be manning the tactical station was not going to be too excited about the launch that she would forget her job. She handled everything with the utmost professionalism as was expected.

He had made his way through the halls, too ramped up to head back to his quarters. He was due on the bridge in the morning when things should get interesting. With his wife and children yet to arrive his quarters seemed too big and empty so he opted to wander the ship.

--=Hours later=--

Eventually he had found his way to the aft observation lounge. The name plate on the door titled it as The Afterthought Café. The doors swooshed open quietly before his approach. Because of the very early hour the interior was dimly lit but enough light was given off by the table lamps and from the large windows that lined the far wall that seeing his way around was not a problem.

He took in the ambiance of the room, round dark wood tables and chairs were strategically placed to allow unobstructed view out of the large windows. The carpet was made up of dark grays and blues with the Starfleet crest prominent in the center. One wall was lined with booths and the opposite wall had a long bar. A few replicators resided near the entrance.

The smell of coffee beans permeated the air. He glanced over at the coffee bar, it was obviously no currently manned.

* Damn that is too bad. I could use a cup. *

He turned back to the replicator, his mind and stomach now craving a cup of joe.

“Coffee, two sugars and one cream.” He thought for a moment. “And a corn bread muffin, warm with butter.”

There was a mild hum as the replicator filled his order. Smiling, he retrieved his goodies from the replicator pad and made his way to the windows taking a tentative sip en route.

The windows offered a dramatic view of the slowly retreating shipyards and dry dock as the Sera slowly made her way toward orbit. The addition of an aft observation lounge/coffee bar was an excellent idea in his mind. He knew that he would be spending time here.

As her neared the windows he noticed a ledge that ran the length of the windows that was topped with comfortable looking cushions for those caffeine craving stargazers among the crew.

Zander however opted for one of the tables nearby. Setting down his coffee and muffin he pulled out a chair and plopped down into it. He stared out of the windows and wondered what his wife was doing right now.

“This is a good place to come and reflect.”

The new voice practically caused Zander to jump out of his skin. It was even more dramatic in the silence of the room and the moment.

“GEEZE!” Zander emitted as he jumped up.

Peering into the darkened room he now noticed a figure seated in one of the booths. He was not sure how he had missed the person before.

“Sorry, I did not mean to startle you.” The voice offered in apology.

Zander squinted to make out the man behind the veil of darkness. The figure stood and walked towards him and into the starlight emitted by the windows. He finally recognized the man and he felt his body relax.

“Oh, hello Commander Blane.” Zander exhaled and laughed slightly. “I did not notice you sitting there.”

TC smiled. “So I gathered.”

“I…I hope I did not disturb you sir?” He began to gather up his coffee and muffin.

“We are off duty Zander, call me TC.” He smiled, “and you're not disturbing me. Please sit down.” He turned and looked out of the windows.

Zander nodded. “OK.” He put the mug and pastry back onto the table and once again plopped down in the chair. He glanced up at the commander and remembered the man demeanor during the dinner. “Um, would you care to join me Commander, I mean TC?”

TC looked down at the open chair and pondered for a second. Then pulled it out and sat down.

There was an uncomfortably long silence as both men sat looking out of the windows at where the Sera had been. Zander picked up his muffin and began to pick it apart as he ate it. It seemed, at least to his own mind, that every smack of his lips was echoing in the empty and quiet café.

He glanced over at TC and wondered if his should be the one to break the silence. “So, what brings you to the butt end of the starship so late at night?”

“I could ask you the same.” TC responded without breaking off his gaze from the windows.

Zander nodded. “Fair enough. I was too excited to sleep.” He looked back out to the stars. “Plus, my family has not arrived. The family suite they assigned us just feels way to empty.” He shrugged.

TC nodded his understanding.

Zander looked back at TC. He raised his eyebrows expecting TC to respond as to why he was in the Café so early. He realized that one would not be forthcoming. A flicker of reflected starlight off of the commanders rank pips caught his eye. He noticed how dramatically they stood out on the obsidian black of his collar.

The collar that was a different color than the one Blane had been wearing at dinner the night before.

Zander nodded towards the black collar. “I almost applied for special ops out of the Academy.”

TC turned to him. “I read your file. You have the background, you took the right courses. Why didn’t you?”

Now it was Zander’s turn to get that far away look. He turned his attention back to his coffee and stared into it. He thought traveling back in time to what seemed like to him as another life.

“Well, I did not think that they would be helpful to me reaching my goals. Well, my goals then anyway.” Zander comment seemed quiet even in the stillness of the deserted café.

TC stared at the younger man, sizing him up with his eyes. “Have you met your goals?”

Zander looked up from his coffee. “No, I am not seeking the same thing anymore.”

TC nodded and turned back to the window. “That’s good. Revenge can eat a man up inside over time.”

Zander frowned shocked at the bluntness from TC.

TC continued to stare ahead. “I told you I read your file.”

Zander shook him head. “That’s in my file?”

TC tugged at the black collar. “In my files it is.”

Zander's face changed to an incredulous look. Then he shook his head.

“So, why are you in spec ops?” He asked.

TC visibly tensed and then shifted in his seat. “Just doing my duty.”

Zander smiled. “Un huh. Right.”

He stood up. “Well, Commander I’ll leave you to your thoughts.” He picked up his mug and headed for the door only stopping at the waste reclamation station to toss away the muffin wrapper. He turned around for a second.

“TC, I hope I am not being too forward in saying this, but I am going to anyway. I don’t know you beyond the past week but from what I have heard your reputation is impeccable.” He paused for a second to give TC the chance to tell him to shut up. When no reply came he continued. “Others besides yourself will be upset about the collar you now have on. Don’t sulk in darkness because of it or you’ll find that thing getting tighter around your neck.”

He turned back to walk through the doors. “Don’t lose those who care about you over that thing.” He stepped through the threshold. “See you on the bridge, Commander.”

As the door slid shut behind Zander, TC sighed. He folded his arms across his chest and continued to stare out the windows at the past. He wondered if it would ever allow him to see his future.

Commander TC Blane
Second Officer/Chief of Operations
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


Lt. Zander Blakeslee
Chief Tactical Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

114: Hopes, Hunches, and Hangovers

By Lieutenant Dr. Terasha
and Nurse Kathy Miller

-=The Morning after the christening=-

The doors to sickbay opened and Terasha entered. It was precisely 0700 hours, and she wanted to get a few things sorted out before the Sera received her official mission orders from Starfleet at 0800. Heading toward her office, she was surprised that she was beginning to feel nervous, and was actually eagerly anticipating what they'd be doing.

She was actually hoping for something exciting. What could their mission possibly be?

Before stepping into her office, Terasha heard a soft moan. Following the sound, she saw a shadowy figure lying on one of the biobeds.

"Computer, increase illumination to normal levels." As the room brightened, Terasha heard someone shriek.

"Agh! Who turned on the damn lights?"

Looking behind the curtain that partially enclosed the biobed, Terasha saw Kathy lying there, a pitiful sight. The nurse's uniform was rumpled, her hair was strewn in every direction, her eyes were closed tightly, and her face was pale. Her boots were off and tossed on to the floor, and a chemical cold pack, long since gone warm, lay across her forehead.

"I think I'm dead," muttered Kathy.

"I told you not to have so many drinks," said Terasha.

"Yeah, yeah, but you know I can't help myself. I love parties too much," said Kathy.

"Have you been here all night?" asked Terasha. Her antennae bouncing in amusement.

"It's morning?" said Kathy incredulously. "Ugh." She tossed the coldpack off her head and began trying to sit up. With another moan and afew grunts, she managed. Swinging her legs to the side, she satunsteadily on the edge of the biobed. "I need another drink."

"You need a shower and a clean uniform," said Terasha. "You also need some mouthwash. An Elkarian cow's breath smells better than yours."

Normally, Kathy wouldn't let the insult go unchallenged, but she felt too lousy to do battle with the doctor. Verbal repartee was part of their friendship, but right now, her brain couldn't even spell repartee.

"Maybe I'll just go and puke all over your desk."

"You do, and you'll be floating back to Earth," said Terasha.

Kathy harumphed and slid off the biobed, taking a few seconds to steadyherself. Very slowly, she bent down and picked up her boots."You do know the room is spinning, don't you, Doc?"

"Yes, and you'd better get yourself cleaned up ASAP. We're getting our mission orders from Starfleet in less than an hour, and you're going tobe conscious, clean, and appear as though you're alive, when we do."

"Appear is the key word here," muttered Kathy. "Any idea at all where we're going?"

"No, but I'm looking forward to it, wherever it is," said Terasha. "Being part of this project, is going to be more than either of us imagined."

"I don't know, I can imagine quite a bit," said Kathy.

Terasha chuckled. "Go get yourself in some semblance of clean and get back here before 0800. You won't want to miss anything."

"Go team," said Kathy, raising one of her boots and giving it a quicktwirl, like a pom-pom.Terasha watched as her nurse slowly shuffled out of sickbay. Entering her office, she sat at her desk and waited, completely forgetting about the work she had come to sickbay to finish.

Lieutenant Dr. Terasha
Supervising Medical Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


Ensign Kathy Miller
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

113: First Day

First Day
By LT. SG Avery Breaux
After Nothing Lasts Forever

Breaux ambled into Engineering, the first day, the first cycle, the first of many hangovers, judging from the good-naturedness of the crew.

*Gods does the warp core have to hum?...and the flashing blue light*, Avery groaned to himself, pulled up his sleeves and grabbed a cup of coffee with cream from the department replicator and began his rounds.

Breaux stood back, holding several padds in his hand, and observed the work of a young engineering crewman.

The lad was on his back, under a console and working furiously. It was obvious he was attacking a problem that had now become personal between the circuitry and himself. Breaux smiled. And then he winced. And then he tried to force a smile, and decided he didn't have the energy. Avery set the padds down on the railing next to him.

Eventually the young man came out from under the console, and seeing Breaux he began to scramble to his feet in order to meet with protocol when faced by an officer. Breaux held up his free hand to slow the youngster.

"Just working out a relay problem sir...I was told by Kellyn...I mean Lt Commander..."

Breaux raised his hand again and then took a sip of coffee. "Young man, when I'm around, you'll find I don't stand on formality...if the real brass is here, you can salute til you feel dizzy...good luck with your circuitry work-I admire your zeal," Breaux said.

"Thank you s...uh...Mr. Breaux," the young man stammered.

"You know my name?...doing your homework...good for you...can a 'salt' give you a piece of advice?"

The young man nodded eagerly.

"Do not...under any circumstances...mix your drinks," Breaux offered and walked to the next station.

The young man raised a finger to question Breaux and then better of it and headed back under the console.

The master systems display was Avery's next stop, and the lights, especially the blinking ones, were taxing beyond belief. Breaux pored over the console and began crunching the numbers.

'Diagnostics' thought Breaux...then he realized that he'd left his padds on the railing. He turned to head back for them and found the young engineer moving toward him padds in hand.

'He's going to do it', thought Avery.

The engineer dropped the padds on the table-like console and the sound amplified inside Avery's head. *it's going to be a long shift,* thought Breaux.

"Thank you son," he offered.

The young man started, "Mr. Breaux, about the drinks..."

Breaux closed his eyes and simply said, "Not now son...not now."

LT. SG Avery Breaux
Engineering Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

112: First Assignment

By Lt. Commander Dabin Reece
After Nothing Lasts Forever

The word had come down late last night, right after the ship’s official launch, that the Admiral had ordered Reece in for an 8:00 A.M. meeting with Zanh Liis and Salvek. There, they would receive their first mission assignment.

Dabin cracked his eyes open slowly, wondering why he hadn’t heard the alarm yet.


“Crap!” He yelled. February groaned and pulled the blankets tighter around herself as Dabin scrambled into his uniform. He made a half-hearted effort to smooth a few hairs into place and dashed out the door, leaving February to her sleep.

“Damn rush hour traffic.” Reece protested, as he jammed into a crowded turbolift that was carrying the day shift to their duty stations.

“Computer, time?” Dabin asked, frustrated as the lift made its way slowly up one deck at a time.

[The current time is 7:59]

The doors opened on deck 2, and the last few officers made their way in and out. Dabin stepped up right to the door as they reached the bridge.

“Move!” He demanded, as he pushed past the crew members waiting to board the lift and dashed towards the ready room. The doors opened, and Reece burst into the room, putting on the brakes and skidding to a stop right in front of Zanh Liis' desk.

“I told you he would be on time.” The Captain sipped her coffee casually, acting not the least bit surprised that Reece had almost plowed right through her.

“You know your crew well, Captain.” Vox replied.

“So, where we going, big guy?” Dabin asked, trying to act natural as he sat in a chair in front of Liis’ desk. Salvek sat beside him, and the Admiral chose to lean against the wall.

"Beta-626, lady and gentleman." Vox walked up behind Liis and spoke into her computer terminal.

“Computer display mission briefing for USS Serendipity, authorization Vox 451-epsilon.”

The computer chirped, and a fuzzy sensor readout of a large red star filled the screen.

“This is Beta-626. A star just a stone’s throw away from Vulcan, Andor, Nausicaa, and the Deltans. Right here, in our own little neighborhood. It is an unremarkable star, or it was. A yellow dwarf like our own sun, no planets of any kind. Beta-626 had a good five billion years left to its life. . .until about two weeks ago.”

Vox tapped a few button and brought up a graph.

“The rate of fusion in this star has increased exponentially in the last two weeks. It is currently about 2000 times normal and the star has swollen to 1000 times its normal size. If the rate of fusion continues to accelerate, Beta-626 will exhaust its supply of fuel and go supernova in less then one year.”

“I assume Starfleet does not have any indication of what is causing this phenomenon?” Salvek asked.

“No, they do not.” Vox turned off the computer. “What I do know is that the Federation council is on the verge of panic that something this drastic is taking place this deep inside the Federation.”

“They think this may be a weapon?” Liis offered.

“The Romulans have tried using trilithium to stop nuclear reactions inside a star and failed. Whatever Tolian Soren knew died with him on Veridian. If someone out there has taken the opposite approach of hyper-accelerating the nuclear reaction rather then stopping it, the Federation needs to know who and they need to know now. Beta-626 may be a test, and we are taking it as a warning to Earth that it happened so close to us.”

“This could just be a fluke.” Dabin pointed out. “Maybe it’s natural.”

“Have you ever seen anything like this, Mr. Reece?” Vox asked.

“I’ve seen a lot of things but never anything like this.” Reece admitted.

"Admiral, does the Federation have any clue as to who, if anyone, may have done this?" Salvek asked.

“Whatever we know has been uploaded into the Serendipity’s main computer along with the rest of the mission profile.”

“That does not answer the question.”

“How about, no? Does that answer the question?” Vox said.

“Yes. Indeed it does.”

Vox circled around the room towards the exit. “We can’t get any clear readings on long range sensors because of the massive gravitational and electromagnetic forces around the star. I’d advise you to navigate the area near the star with extreme caution. The star’s gravity is in constant flux. One moment you may be at a safe distance and the next the star expands and you find yourself caught in its pull. I’ve equipped your torpedo bay with six class one solar probes. Are there any more questions?”

The room was silent, as Liis waited to see if Salvek and Reece had any more questions. Vox seemed satisfied they understood the mission and was ready to let them get underway.

“Well then, good luck to you Captain.”

“Wait, Admiral, there is one question.” Zanh Liis stood up behind her desk, and leaned forward, setting her hands upon it.

“Of course, Captain.”

“Is it, Starfleet’s, intention to protect project Alchemy by keeping us limited to missions safely inside the protective fold of Federation space? Or are we going to get the chance to actually do some deep space exploration? I‘d hate to think the Serendipity is going to end up being a freighter carrying supplies back and forth between here and Vulcan.”

Reece looked at Salvek, and Salvek back at Reece. Each one of them arched their left eyebrow. They both knew her emphasis on the word Starfleet was meant to imply that she really wanted to say “your.”

Vox spoke calmly. “Just humor me, for this first mission, Captain Zanh.”

Liis nodded reluctantly and sat back down.

“Good luck to you and your crew Captain. I am due back at Command, and will be beaming back without delay."

"I'll accompany you to the transporter room." Liis announced. “Mr. Reece, you’ve got some reading to do. Salvek, assemble the senior staff.”

"I'll await your report with interest, Gentlemen." Vox concluded, and then the Captain and the Admiral were gone.

LT. CMDR Dabin Reece
Chief Science Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

111: Nothing Lasts Forever

By TC Blane and Zanh Liis
Current: The Morning After Heroic Hearts

--=Personal Quarters of Commander TC Blane=--

TC awoke a full two hours early for his duty shift. He finished showering and shaving with well over an hour left before he needed to report. Now he sat on the edge of his bed still wrapped in his towel staring at the uniform that was draped over the opposing edge.

It was only a uniform but in his mind it equated a prison. He was locked into its service against his will, his freedom of choice stripped away. He dreaded putting it on. He sighed and picked up the uniform and began to dress.

He glanced at his profile in the mirror. The black collar brought back the memory of every reason he had left Special Ops. Now here he stood, once again in its service.

“Temporary.” He muttered to himself as he glared at the man in the mirror, caught between his actions of the past and his eventual actions of the future.

Still he had thought about the deal he had been forced into accepting with Captain Do’Chal. He would do the duty that he had been assigned.

He was to protect The Alchemy Project, continue with his duties as Chief Operations officer, and provide feedback on the progress to Special Ops Command. His direct commander was to be Captain Zanh but he was not to report to Vox. He shook his head, he was in a pickle.

He turned on his heel and headed out of his quarters.

=^= Bridge =^=

The lift doors swooshed open and TC stepped onto the bridge. He glanced around looking for the captain but did not see her. Instead he saw Commander Salvek seated in the center chair.

The commander turned at the sound of the lift door and upon seeing TC’s new wardrobe raised an eyebrow.

TC straightened his stance and made his way to the captain's ready room and pressed the door chime.

"Yeah? Zanh called, inviting her visitor to enter. She was catching up on reading Sera's technical specs when she heard a familiar voice address her.

"Have a moment, Captain?" TC asked, his voice and his posture stiff.

"For you, Thomas, I have. . ." She stopped cold when she looked up and saw the color of his uniform. " . . .two." She finished her sentence slowly.

She set down the cup she had been holding between her hands, and instantly sat straight up in her chair as if poised to jump out of it. "What's all this?"

He approached her desk and handed the PADD containing his reassignment documents to her.

“I have accepted a new posting as Special Operations liaison to the Sera.” He stated flatly. “I am charged with protecting The Alchemy Project from all threats. I will continue to function under your command, as well as continue my duties as your second officer and operations chief.” He stood at attention in front of her desk.

She stood up slowly and approached him. She didn't know which troubled her more, the change in his assignment, or the change in his demeanor. Overnight he'd transformed from the man she knew into someone who seemed a total stranger to her.

"At ease, Commander." Her own blue eyes searched his as he continued to stand still as a sculpture before her, only with his arms clasped together in front of him now.

"What is this really about, Thomas?" She shook her head. "Vox? Me?" She paused. "I know Jonas hasn't made a lot of friends throughout the Fleet with his personal management style."

She frowned. "I'm not going to win any popularity contests either, given my colorful career path. But taking you. My second in command, and putting you into. . . this?" She gestured to his uniform helplessly. "Can't someone else be the," she looked at the PADD and read through the rhetoric quickly. "Special Ops Liaison to the Serendipity?"

He knew that she understood clearly what the position entailed. He was to be their spy.

Blane did not answer.

"Have I done something that leads you to believe I'm not to be trusted by Starfleet? That I need a babysitter? Or worse," she shook her head. "A conscience?"

"No, Captain."

"Then why, Thomas?" She moved toward the desk and picked up the spyglass he'd given her as a Christmas present. She extended it, took a deep breath, and then exhaled slowly as she looked out the window at the stars through it. "We're hours out of space dock, and already," she stopped short of finishing the thought that already, things were changing.

He shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other. “I am not at liberty to answer that question.” He gulped and in an uncharacteristic move, averted his eyes to the floor.

Of everything that had happened, this part was the worst.

“I can assure you that I will continue my duties as you have come to expect of me.” He stared up into her eyes. “Until hell freezes over.”

Zanh came to the sad realization that if he was keeping something from her at this point in their relationship, after all they'd been through together in the past year, then he definitely had a reason.

She also knew that the day might come when she would also be forced to withhold information from him, and she hoped that he would react to it much as she tried to react to this bitter pill now. Swallowing it whole, and only slightly choking on it.

"I am certain that is so." She closed the spyglass now, one hand pressing it down against the other until it was again neatly compact.

She sat back down at her desk and pretended to busy herself with her computer, to try to minimize somehow the monumental shift that had just occurred in the balance of her world.

"I have no doubt that no matter the color of your uniform, the color of your blood is," she paused, "true blue. She sighed and for a moment stared at the desktop and his gift once more.

"There isn't anything I can do to get you out of this? Because if I can,"

“Negative.” He shifted his weight. “I’ll find my way.”

"Thank you for telling me this yourself.” She knew that it had to have been difficult for him, and that he definitely could have let someone else do it. She did not want to prolong his agony, and so finally released him.

“You're dismissed, Commander Blane."

As he turned, he stopped. He seemed to want to say something more, but he didn't. Zanh took the moment to look up at him once more as he glanced back at her over his shoulder.

"Remember two things," she offered. "One, that I also will continue to do my job just as you have come to expect, and two," her meaning was unmistakable as she formed her next sentence.

"I pay no heed to the men behind the curtain. It's a lesson that a good friend taught me once. The Great and Powerful Oz may be able to pull our strings and make us dance to his tune, for a little while. But every Oz has his weakness, and nothing lasts forever."

She wanted so badly to encourage him somehow, hoping that perhaps this was an arrangement that they could eventually find a way out of, together, even though she couldn't seem to help him now.

Blane looked back towards the door as she finished. "You know where my loyalties lie. Should you ever need to call upon them, all you have to do is say the word."

He spun around and looked at her taking a step back towards her. “I hope that you know where mine are. I will always do my duty.” His frustration was becoming evident as his voiced raised. “I will always protect my ship, my shipmates, and…” He paused realizing that he was losing his cool. “…my captain.”

He inhaled deeply before turning back to leave. “Always!”

*I know, Thomas, * she thought, as she felt a dull ache in her chest, watching him struggle. Her stomach twisted into a knot as frustration enveloped her as well.

She knew that whatever it was Special Ops was holding over him, it had to have been his worst nightmare realized if caused him to accept this fate, even temporarily.

As Blane made his way out the door, Salvek was on his way in. The two almost collided, and Salvek tilted his head quizzically as he once again regarded Blane's change of attire.

Seeing the obvious discomfort in the man's eyes, he did not ask the question that the new uniform begged. Instead he merely lowered his eyes and gestured for Blane to go ahead past him.

"Commander Blane."

"Commander Salvek."

Salvek's gaze moved toward Zanh's desk, seeking to find her. He observed she had rotated her chair away from the door. She was staring out the window, and opening and closing the small spyglass in her hands, again and again.

"Captain," Salvek gazed at her reflection in the view port as she stared back at him from it.

"What is the meaning of Commander Blane's uniform?"

"If I know TC Blane, if I know him at all," Zanh began slowly, "he only accepted that black collar because it signifies the noose that Special Ops wanted to put around someone's neck besides his own, for something. Something he can't see his way clear to get them out of at this time," She leaned forward, letting her head fall into her hand a moment.

She was overcome with guilt and worry, but knew all she could do was stand over his shoulder at a distance, and keep her eyes open for any opportunity to help him.

"This shall. . ." Salvek hesitated. "Complicate matters considerably."

"I just hope to hell that it's nothing I've done that has put him in this position.” Zanh’s low voice rasped softly as she gently rotated TC Blane’s gift in her hands. “That he's not staring at the hangman only so I'd be spared the trip to the gallows in his place."

Commander TC Blane
Second Officer/Chief of Operations/Special Ops Liaison
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


-=/\=-Zanh Liis
Commanding Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

110: One Equal Temper of Heroic Hearts

By Captain Zanh Liis

--=23:50 hours, after the conclusion of the dinner party=--

The arboretum was mostly deserted now.

The tables, chairs, and overhead strands of lights had all been removed. One would never know to look at the space that a large party had happened here, just a short time ago.

The scheduled irrigation cycle, delayed by the evening's festivities, had finally kicked on.

Captain Zanh and Admiral Jonas Vox alone remained.

As drips of water cascaded as rain from above, the two Starfleet officers sat on the swing beneath the gazebo. Speaking privately of times past, friends gone, and frontiers yet to be conquered.

"It's almost midnight, Zanh Liis." Vox declared at last, as the rain sequence ended and he brought the swing to a stop with a quick motion of his foot. He stood up and looked around them, taking in the view.

The dim lighting from the panels overhead illuminated the drops of water on the plants like morning dew. Everything seemed fresh, and alive.

Anything seemed possible here.

"Will I turn into a pumpkin if we don't leave the ball, Fairy Godmother?" Liis quipped. She looked down and swung one foot forward dramatically, holding it out for him to inspect.

She analyzed it closely herself. "I seem to have lost a glass shoe."

Vox chuckled softly. "What you turn into at midnight, I don't know. But I do know that we have somewhere to go. If you'll come with me."

"Mysterious." Liis intoned playfully as she followed him toward the exit, curious what he had in store.

He led her to the nearest lift, and Liis looked at him expectantly. "Where to, boss?"

"Bridge." Vox commanded.

As the doors slid open moments later to reveal their destination, Liis was struck again by the sight of it. Sera was, quite simply, breathtaking.

"I still don't know where that bottle of wine went, I sure hope no one. . ." Zanh paused before finishing her sentence, as she looked up in dismay to find her senior staff manning every station to which they were officially assigned.

Lining the walls all along the perimeter of the room stood the rest of the ship's commissioned officers.

". . .drank it." She concluded softly, her words hanging in the air as she rocked forward and backward on her feet in anticipation. Once again, she directed bright blue eyes toward Vox.


"The reason that you can't find the wine, Zanh Liis, is because we're ready to break the bottle, just as Salvek intended."

Her lips parted slightly, as she gasped in silent surprise.

"I thought it most appropriate to conclude this evening's celebration by officially sending Sera on her way." Vox approached the helm, and gestured toward the woman there seated. "Lt. Grace, are you ready?"

"Aye. Orders, Sir?"

"Your orders are to take the ship out of dock and then lay in a course, station keeping, in orbit of Earth. The ship is to remain on that course for the next eight hours."

"Understood, Sir."

Vox glanced up at Zanh. "Provided everything goes well overnight," he raised an eyebrow slightly and just a hint of a smile danced across his lips. ". . .and assuming Sera's front bumper does not fall off," February laughed softly, and a full smile came to fruition upon the Admiral's face. "She'll receive her first official assignment in the morning."

Zanh's breath caught in her throat. Her eyes darted around the room, seeking one face in particular among the assembled group. She found him at last, glancing over her shoulder to see Jariel standing in the back of the bridge, by the lift doors.

He nodded to her once, smiling proudly. Liis' heart was so full, she thought it may not be able to contain the joy she felt in this moment.

"Captain, the shuttlecraft Chance is requesting permission to disembark." Dane Cristiane muttered from his position at the communications station.

"Ensign, we can't hear you," Vox chided him. "Enunciate."

"The shuttle craft Chance is requesting permission to disembark! SIR!" Dane snapped. His words were appropriate. His tone of voice, not so much.

Zanh shot him a stern warning glare, drawing looks from every officer present. O'Sullivan, who was standing nearby Cristiane, shook his head and rolled his eyes. "Mind your manners," he whispered menacingly, ". . .or I'll mind them for you."

"Shall I give them your authorization, Captain?" Dane inquired now, shifting in his chair slightly.

"Admiral?" Zanh asked, seeking his blessing.

"They've got your bottle of Spring Wine." Vox replied.

"Permission granted." Liis nodded. "They can launch as soon as we're clear. " She absolutely beamed, glowing as if lit from within as she added, "the USS Serendipity is leaving space dock."


Liis felt her heart race, and her face flush with excitement. The intensity of emotion coursing through her was astonishing. It was a heady experience, and one she could only equate with the shocking rush that accompanied waking up in the middle of the night to the realization that you were falling in love.

The sensation was dizzying.


She drew as deep a breath as she could manage, and rested her hands against the back of the command chair to try to conceal from all present that they were unsteady.

To hide the fact they were actually trembling.

"Your chair, Captain?" Vox offered.

"No, thank you," Liis whispered softly, "I'd rather stand. Commander Salvek." Zanh beckoned her Executive Officer to come near.


"When the Chance moves into position, please ask them to hold."

"Aye, Sir."

"Would you care to say anything to your crew, Captain, before we release the docking clamps and set Sera free?" Vox invited.

Liis reached up and twisted the chain on her earring a second, pondering. She nodded, and she moved forward a few paces to stand dead center of the bridge. Shoulders back, eyes level with her officers, she stood tall.

She looked at each of them for a moment now, taking them in. Faces both foreign and familiar surrounded her, and she knew that she could ask for no more from a crew than these souls were ready to offer her, and willingly.

It was a sacred trust, the relationship between captain and crew, and one that she would never neglect, or forsake.

"Come, my friends." Zanh began slowly. Her voice wavered, and she focused her thoughts and intention, determined to steady it. "'Tis not too late to seek a newer world."

She stepped forward, circling the bridge in measured steps as Salvek discreetly tapped the stand-by order for the Chance into the communications console.

Zanh's excitement for what was to come resonated in every word she spoke; each successive syllable uttered with an increasingly urgent and commanding tone of voice.

"Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows

She stepped forward to the science panel and, reaching over Reece's shoulder, she brought external visuals up on screen. The image of open space before them came into view.

"For my purpose holds.
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die."

Reece winked at Liis, and she gave him her trademark, lopsided grin.

"Even though Alfred, Lord Tennyson lived and died hundreds of years ago, only able to sail an ocean beneath the stars, and not the heavens, among them, as we do. . ." she marveled at the thought. "It seems that he understood, even so, exactly the way that I feel now."

She walked slowly from station to station, looking into the face of each officer there as she spoke.

"At this, our zero hour, we are charged with a perilous duty. That of safeguarding the future, and the technology that will shape it, for us all." She let her words stand a moment, punctuating the seriousness of their mission, before proceeding.

"I have no doubt in my mind that each of you will do your very best in service of this ship, and her crew. " She stopped in front of TC Blane, and gave him a knowing look, inclining her head toward him slightly in acknowledgment of all the man had already done for her as she added, ". . .and her Captain."

Blane puzzled her by seeming to change position a little, but Liis was too engaged to question his discomfort now.

"I give you my word that I will always do my level best for you. To protect you, to challenge you, to walk side by side with you as we move into this, our future. Not a step ahead, not a pace behind."

She approached the helm.

"We will accomplish our goals together, as one."

She moved back toward the center of the bridge to conclude her statements. "If you would indulge me a moment longer, I would like to return to Tennyson, who concluded his Ulysses this way:

". . .that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield

Zanh's eyes sparkled with emotion. She stepped forward to stand between Salvek and Blane, the men who were so vital to Sera's chain of command, and moreover two men she believed with all her heart would also- always - have her back.

"To the Serendipity. May she and her crew strive. Seek. Find," Her jaw set with determination as she thought now of those who would surely challenge the safety and security of their charge, the Alchemy. ". . .and never yield."

She spun on her heel and returned to the helm. "Lt. Grace."

"Docking clamps released, Captain." February responded, hands deftly maneuvering across her panel. "Course and speed laid in. Impulse drive on line and ready to engage upon your order."

All eyes were on the forward view screen as Zanh gave the word.


The ship propelled forward, leaving behind the confines of its location of origin. Ready to strike out and explore.

Ready to begin.

As soon as the ship was clear of the dock and had moved into open space, Zanh nodded to Salvek and he gave word to the crew of the Chance.


The Chance emerged from Sera's shuttle bay and swung around front of the ship, taking up position.

"By your command, Captain," said Salvek.


The shuttle launched the bottle of Bajoran Spring Wine out into space, with a remote control guidance chip attached to it. With masterful skill and precision, the crew maneuvered the bottle straight into Serendipity's forward hull.

The shuttle sent the image from its perspective back to the Sera, and Cristiane switched viewpoints on the main screen.

The crew erupted into applause as they witnessed this official christening.

Only after it was over, did Zanh finally take her rightful seat in the center chair.

"Those who are not scheduled to work the overnight, you can go." Zanh announced. "I thank you for being here tonight, and in advance for all that you will do in service of this ship and her mission. Dismissed."

As officers began to file into the lift in shifts, the Admiral leaned over and addressed her. "Nice."

"Well, I've always been of the opinion that Tennyson said anything that ever needed to be said better than anyone else could say it, before or since."

"Would you like that last line from Ulysses to be the inscription on Sera's dedication plaque, Captain?" Vox inquired. "I held off having it finished, thinking that you may want to choose the text yourself."

Zanh looked up at him, speechless. She nodded.

"To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield." Vox repeated. "Got it."

"Orders, Captain?" Salvek approached Zanh again, hands clasped behind him as he walked.

"You have no orders, Salvek. You aren't scheduled until alpha shift."

"Requesting permission to stay on the bridge overnight, Captain. To allow you to rest with complete assurance that everything is well in hand here."

"Thank you, Salvek." She knew that she had better take this opportunity to sleep before her day truly began at 0600. She stood up from the chair, grinned at him and put a hand on his shoulder, squeezing once. "Permission granted. Commander, the bridge is yours."

Zanh looked around now for TC Blane, wanting to revel in this moment in his company as well, but he was nowhere to be found. She knew his shift did not start until morning, so she expected that he'd gone to his quarters to sleep. Still, she frowned a little, curious that he didn't at least say something to her after the christening.

"Good job, Bru," Zanh complimented Grace with a wave of her hand. "Not a scratch."

"Just as I promised, Sir."

"Mr. Cristiane, signal the Chance and ask them to return. We remain in orbit of Earth tonight," Zanh moved toward the lift, where Jariel stood, waiting patiently for her. "Then in the morning, the real fun begins."

-=/\=-Captain Zanh Liis
Commanding Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012